Puerto Varas 

Charlotte told me that she had organised a surprise for me when we got to the South. Therefore, we took a small detour to Puerto Montt before heading towards our next planned destination, Puerto Varas. I was actually able to guess the surprise before: in Puerto Montt, we met with Sue, our travel Buddy during our adventures in Peru! We were very happy to see her and spend that day with her. 

Together, we travelled to Frutilla, a small village close to Puerto Varas. There, we visited this very “germanized” city with its many “kuchen” – cake in German – factories and its German Kuckuckshouse restaurant, where we ate our lunch that day. A nice stroll along the lakeside and a degustation of nice Kuchen made a very enjoyable afternoon, before we had to part again πŸ™

Puerto Varas is a little bigger than Frutillar, but a lot smaller than Puerto Montt. The city, like Frutillar, also has a German flair. Apparently, there were many German immigrants around 1850 settling in this area: many streets or houses have German names and some dishes definitely have a German influence! Puerto Varas is a perfect location to start some nice treks and visits the lake area of Chile.

Hiking around Puerto Varas

Around Puerto Varas, there is a very beautiful national park: the Parque Nacional Vicente PΓ©rez Rosales. There, many small hikes are possible. We decided to combine some of the possible activities and defined a 3 to 4 days program. 

The Petrohue Waterfalls

First, we took a collectivo to the Saltos de Petrohue: they are not what I would describe as waterfalls, but it is still a beautiful sight to behold. Tons of water rush down between dark stones with several volcanos in the background. We walked around for a while, enjoying the views on the Osorno volcano, which started to appear between clouds.

From there, we started to walk the 6 kilometers separating us from the Petrohue village. Our plan was to hitchhike there and it worked out quite well as an American couple picked us up after less than 10 minutes! Hitchhiking in Chile is really easy and a very good way to have very interesting conversations πŸ˜€

 El Sendero Paso Desolacion

From Petrohue, we wanted to walk the Sendero Paso Desolacion, a very famous and easy hike close to the Osorno volcano. The hike itself is not hard, but the ground is sandy, making it tiring to walk. On the top of that, we had enough food for 4 days in our backpacks, which made them heavy… Therefore, we quickly did a lunch break in order to lighten a little bit our backpacks – all excuses are good to eat early :p

The Sendero Paso Desolacion leads from the lake Todos los Santos to the view point “Mirador La Picada“, where you can admire this stunning landscape:

On the way, we passed several impressive lava flows coming from the Osorno volcano. As there are actually two different paths going to the viewpoint, we chose one to go up and took the other one along the lake on the way back. Including breaks, the hike took us 6 hours way and back for approximately 13 kilometers and with heavy backpacks πŸ˜‰

From Lagos Todos los Santos to Lago Rupanco

Once back in Petrohue, we asked fishermen how much it would cost us to go by boat to El Rincon, the starting point of a 2 to 3 days hike. After some negotiation, we went up on a boat and started the one hour ride to El Rincon. The views on the way were amazingly beautiful! 

As we arrived at El Rincon – where there is litteraly NOTHING – the boat dropped us on the beach and left. We set up our tent directly on the beach and prepared dinner while looking at the sky and lake taking orange and purple colors as the sun set. We went to bed early as we knew tomorrow would be a long hiking day!

 

From El Rincon to the Hot Springs

Our aim of the day was to reach the El Callao hot springs. Actually, the hot springs were the main reason we selected this hike and not another one: to have the possibility to soak up in hot water in the middle of your hike is sooooo nice πŸ˜€

So we started to walk up the mountain in the direction of the hot springs. The way was… well, I guess it was comparable to the paths we walked on in Pucon. Which means there was mud EVERYWHERE! There is a reason why everything is so green in this region, it is called “a lot of rain” πŸ˜‰ sometimes, the way would get very narrow with high walls on both sides, it was quite impressive! Kai names that “the cows’ ways”, as these deep paths apparently form because of flocks taking the same way every few days.

The whole time, we were walking along a wide river when suddenly, our way ended abruptly at the shore of it. I thought we had taken the wrong way and told Kai we should turn around. But the reality was that the way continued on the same river’s side some 50 meters away. So we undressed our shoes and trousers – the water was reaching mid-thighs height – and started our painful way inside of the river. Not surprisingly at all, the water was cold, very very cold. We encountered several other river crossings later on where we had to take our shoes off again. Luckily, due to the hiking activity, it is easy enough to get warm feet again and so we continued our hike quickly.

A short while later we stumbled on a local “beast” near the first inhabited farm we found on our way. The inhabitants were so kind as to point us in the right direction as there were not many signs but several paths due to their farming activities. 

We continued on the given path and encountered  another farm along a river with one of the most spectacular bridges we have seen on our trip. Actually, some of the bridges we took during this hike were quite… interesting! Here are some pictures of them:

In this farm, we got the key for the hut with the hot springs for 5000 pesos per person. We were even able to get a piece of strawberry cake for 1000 pesos each πŸ˜€ when we asked if we could buy bread, he mimed to milk some cows and told us he would bring it later to us.

We were really looking forward to reaching the hot srping, as we were quite exhausted. Plus, it was starting to rain… From where we were, we were supposed to have a beautiful view on the Puntiagudo Volcano. However, as the weather was very cloudy, we couldn’t see it at all. About 1 hour later and some confusion about its location – it is right next to the way but we were not far enough and worried about missing it – we finally arrived after 6 walking hours. 

There was a well built and windtight shack, so we decided to sleep inside as it was now raining heavily. After soaking for 2 hours in the hot springs conveniently funnelled into two bathtubs, we went back to the hut were very tasty milk bread and some fresh and self made herb cheese was waiting for us at the door!! Apparently, the owner had dropped by as we were in the hot srpings in didn’t want to disturb us πŸ™‚ It was really yummy and nice, especially as we had not payed him yet, so we left 1500 pesos for it in the refugio the next morning.

Sadly, all our efforts for lighting the fire in the oven were for nothing: our lack of experience and the slightly wet wood didn’t help either! Nevertheless, we slept really well and spent a very relaxing afternoon there.

 

From El Callao Hot Springs to the Lake Rupanco

The next day, we headed out at 09:30, hoping for less river crossings than yesterday: approximately 5 minutes after leaving the hot springs, we encountered our first river! Luckily, we were able jump along stones and fallen trees to the other side where we met our host from before on his horse and chatted shortly with him.

Afterwards, we started to walk up in the direction of a pass, crossing several rivers with and without bridges. After about 2 hours, we were at the top and started our descent in the direction of the lake Rupanco. We were able to see its first glimpses around noon and arrived at the first camping possibility near a beautiful small lake around 2 pm. We didn’t have enough Food in our backpacks to stop there for one more night, otherwise we would have set the tent. The camping spot was really beautiful!

Around 05:30pm, we arrived at the lake. There, we had planned to spend the night in the B&B Las Gaviotas. As it was still quite early, we decided instead to walk until El Poncho, the place where our bus stop was located for tomorrow. We thought El Poncho would be near, maybe one or two kilometers: we actually had to walk around 10 Kilometers along the Rupanco lake until we finally arrived at the place named “El Poncho”. We were completely exhausted, as we had hiked up and down 28 km, including 18km on a narrow and hard to find path.

Luckily, a small shop was still opened and the owner confirmed us that a bus was leaving at 06:00am for Osorno tomorrow morning. We also bought a beer and a coke to get our spirits up before the night πŸ™‚ the next morning, we took our bus to Osorno and directly catched another bus to Puerto Varas.


Practical Information

How to get to Puerto Varas

If you come from the North – Santiago or Pucon – your bus will likely stopped by Puerto Varas on the way to Puerto Montt. If you arrive from the south, you can take a collectivo from Puerto Montt to Puerto Varas for 900CP/person, it should take around one hour.

Accommodation in Puerto Varas

We stayed in the hostal Pacha for 23.000CP/night/double room with breakfast. The hostel is not new and you can see that if you look closely at the paintings on the walls. However, the owner is very friendly, the breakfast is good and it felt a little bit like home πŸ™‚

Coffee and tea were always available and the Internet connection was fine. Every room offers a different decoration and has a personal heating system. All in all, a very nice place to stay in for a reasonnable price – Puerto Varas is normally expensive! 

 Where to eat

We tried several restaurants around Puerto Varas, here are our favourite:

  • for a good burger head to Shoper. The burgers are really good and their beer offer is large, going from Belgian to German beers
  • for good seafood a fish, try La Olla – the restaurant is located a Little bit outside of Puerto Varas, but the Food is delicious and the prices definitely cheaper than in the city center of Puerto Varas.

Some prices

Entry fees for the Petrohue Waterfalls: 4.000CP/person

Boat to El Rincon: 60.000CP

El Callao hot springs: 5.000CP/person

Transportation

Collectivo Puerto Varas – Petrohue waterfalls: 2.000CP/person, one every 30 minutes

To go back from Lago Rupanco to Puerto Varas, you have to first take a bus to Osorno and then one to Puerto Varas. Note that there is only one bus per day, leaving at 06:00 in the morning, except on Sunday, where it leaves at 01:00 in the afternoon.

 

 

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